Missouri football begins practice

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 | 5:40 p.m. CDT; updated 9:57 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Football is here.

The excitement even spurred Mike Shryock at Shryocks Callaway Farms to design a corn maze celebrating "a new era" as the Missouri Tigers enter the Southeastern Conference.

The maze features Truman the Tiger holding an SEC logo, along with outlines of the 11 states in the conference.

This is the 11th corn maze Shryock has created. It will open September 7.

Shryock said the height of the corn is currently seven or eight feet.  He said it won't have much corn on it, though.

"It won't be anything like a normal crop because we have had no rain," Shryock said.

Shryock said he has had to irrigate the cornfield to make sure it grows tall enough for the maze because of the unusually hot summer.

The Missouri football team will also have to deal with the heat at its first practice Thursday afternoon. The team will start training camp with an expected high of 99 degrees and a 30% chance of thunderstorms.

The Tigers open up the season Sept. 1 against Southeastern Louisiana, and the SEC opener against Georgia is just one week later.

Before the Tigers take the field for an actual game, there are plenty of things for Head Coach Gary Pinkel to figure out. Quarterback James Franklin is expected to be ready for the start of the season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder in the spring.

"We expect, without question, for him to be a hundred percent," Pinkel said during Missouri's press conference at SEC media days.

But it remains unclear if the junior will fully participate in practice.

As Franklin enters his second year as the starter, expectations will be higher.  Missouri's three previous starting quarterbacks all led the team to higher win totals in their second year than in their first. Brad Smith improved by three wins, Chase Daniel improved by four wins, and Blaine Gabbert improved by two wins. However, none of the previous quarterbacks saw the team through a conference change, and the move to the SEC presents a whole new set of challenges.

Franklin will have plenty of receivers to throw to, including highly touted freshman Dorial Green-Beckham. The 6-foot-6-inch receiver ranked as the nation's top overall prospect by Rivals will practice with the team for the first time Thursday. Green-Beckham will join a receiving corps with 6-foot-5-inch Marcus Lucas, 6-foot-4-inch L'Damian Washington and 6-foot T.J. Moe, who led the team in catches and receiving yards in each of the past two seasons.

On Aug. 5, the team will hold the 10th annual Football Fan Day.

Fans will get a chance to meet players and coaches on the field.  Players will be able to autograph one item per fan and hand out free schedule posters.

Gates will open at 3:45 p.m., and the team and coaches will sign autographs until 5:15 p.m. Admission to the event is free. Fans should enter via Gate 1 or Gate 2W.

Fans are encouraged to bring their own sealed bottle of water as well to handle the forecast 93 degree heat. Other outside food and beverage will not be permitted.

Parking for the event will be free in any of the lots around Memorial Stadium. 

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